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History

In 26 short years, Widener Law Commonwealth has written a remarkable story of progress in Harrisburg, changing and growing to meet the needs of its students and the profession.

1988-94

In 1988, Widener University responds to demand for a new law school in central Pennsylvania. Widener president Robert Bruce and Dean Anthony Santoro, head of the university’s law school, then operating from a single campus in Wilmington, Delaware, commission a new 50,000-square foot building to house the Harrisburg campus.

The campus quickly earns accreditation from both the American Bar Association (ABA) and full members in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). By 1994, both the Student Services and Administration Buildings open.

At the 1994 ABA Convention, Widener-Harrisburg receives the Outstanding School of the Year Award, and the Student Bar Association earns recognition as the nation’s Outstanding SBA.

1995-2000

The Harrisburg campus continues to grow. The Law and Government Institute debuts, and the campus once again earns honors as the ABA Outstanding School of the Year.

Four Harrisburg Civil Law Clinic interns win cases on behalf of clients before the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and students in the Public Interest Clinic draft and work for the enactment of Jen and Dave’s Law, helping provide parents with information important in custody decisions.

2001-05

In 2002, reflecting a commitment to service-centered education, Harrisburg students dedicate themselves to projects on behalf of people at the Bethesda Mission, Saint Francis Soup Kitchen, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Project Mercy, and the Harrisburg YWCA.

Widener Law Journal editors speak to the National Conference of Law Review Editors, and the Civil Law Clinic certifies its 500th intern.

2006-09

Linda L. Ammons becomes the Law School’s seventh dean, and its first African American and female dean. Dean Ammons institutes multiple events focusing on professionalism, establishes the campus’ annual Dean’s Leadership Forum on Diversity, and facilitates the new Journal of Law, Economics, and Race.

The new Environmental Law Center opens, and funding is acquired for the Environmental Law Clinic.

The Law Journal is honored at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the National Conference of State Trial Judges.

2010-14

Harrisburg faculty members are recognized for their contributions to the profession by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Administrative Law Section, Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Environmental and Energy Law Section, National Administrative Law and Judiciary Foundation, and Central Penn Business Journal. Faculty members also serve with the American Law Institute, American Bar Foundation, and American Association of Law Schools Executive Committee.

The Jurist Academy, an initiative designed to inspire interest in the law among undergraduates from diverse backgrounds, launches on the Harrisburg campus.

The Law and Government Institute celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2014 and is recognized by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The school partners with the Dauphin County Bar Association to launch an incubator program for new attorneys who want to start their own solo or small law firms.

2014-16

The transition begins through which Widener University School of Law will become two separately accredited law schools under Widener University. Robyn Meadows is appointed interim co-dean in Harrisburg as the search for a dean commences.

On Friday, March 27, 2015, Widener University officially announces that the American Bar Association has approved its plan to separate the Delaware and Harrisburg campuses and create two independent law schools.

Effective July 1, 2015, the Harrisburg campus becomes Widener University Commonwealth Law School, also known as Widener Law Commonwealth.  After a national search, Christian A. Johnson, the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair in Law at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law is selected to serve as Dean of the law school.